The resilience of men…and women

People living in third world countries endure shit. They live in conditions that Britain last saw in the medieval period: no medicine, child immortality, no education, disease, lawlessness, a food source 100% reliant on crop quality and weather. 

Therefore those of us who don’t have to worry about growing our food, have running water easily accessible and the opportunity to take medicines for common illnesses and vaccinate our children shouldn’t moan. There are those in western civilisations who struggle for different reasons and put up an admirable fight. In the UK, the English approach ‘to keep calm and carry on’ is a useful take on life when things are generally rubbish.

I read the blog of one very British bloke and was in full respect for his ability to see the funny side of every predicament. In reading it I felt a little bit more upbeat and therefore would like to share it with fellow bloggers – the guy in question is the Master of the South Downs Bloodhounds (don’t worry they don’t tear foxes to shreds – they just chase middle aged men dipped in a scent that bloodhounds go mad for across the countryside). This is his report as the season draws to a close during what has been one of the longest, coldest, miserable winters in living memory (of a thirty something year old):

SDB ENews March 2013 

No matter how this season ends, I will remember this season for two things; firstly the sheer hard grind for survival and secondly, the extraordinary generosity and kindness of so many people shown towards the hounds and me.  The cause of the hard grind has of course been the weather. Since my last ENews, we have lost three meets to either rain, snow or frost.  It would have been four, but for the generosity of a family in letting us change a meet at 48 hours notice because our original meet was flooded. Not hunting causes more work than hunting.  Hounds and horses need more exercise to keep them fit and ready for when the weather breaks.  Also, because we only hunt once a week at the moment, hounds missing a day, worse still hunting only one 2 days in four weeks, makes them very unsettled.  The mental strain of having to ask farmers and landowners if we may cross their ground is tremendous, because one has this overwhelming sense of guilt about asking them when one knows the stress the bad weather is also causing them. On top of this, the bad weather makes work at the kennels very difficult. Now you are all crying your eyes out, let me tell you why and how I manage to keep going through such a period. Take for example the meet at HH. It could not have been wetter.  I went to see DA expecting him to say “no way can you cross my land.”  But he didn’t.  He said in his own very laid back way, “that’ll be okay, at this time of year the wetter the better, as the land has plenty of time to heal after you’ve been through.” Then when we actually arrived at the meet, in no way was I expecting to be able to do our usual lap of the cross country course.  But HHS and their yard manager RP, without prompting, said we could still go round the cross country course, which was so much appreciated by everyone. The owner of r Estate, his Keeper and Mr M have had us over their land three times since my last newsletter and never once have they made me feel awkward about asking them.  Indeed Mr M always says, “we will be pleased to see you.” Then there was the meet at HH, frosted off on the first occasion, but re-arranged for the following week and went ahead despite the wet conditions.  This meet came about because the Earl and Countess’s nanny was kind enough to tell them about us, and they in turn were kind enough to invite us to meet there.  And what a good day we had. The meet at CC was not the usual bit of country we hunted, but incorporated over 500 acres of new country, because farm manager JW organised this for us.  Not content with just doing that, he laid on refreshments at the meet, with farm worker DI supplying roast potatoes to warm everyone up.  I should state here that my Joint Master had more than his fair share of roast potatoes! At A we had a great day’s hunting, but there was an unfortunate incident that could have been so much worse.  Because I have so many puppies to enter next year, I decided to take three of the biggest ones to the meet, not to hunt, but just to start them getting used to big occasions. Unfortunately one of them, Rosie, slipped away without me seeing her.  Then some well intentioned riders went after her to try and stop her, but unfortunately this only scared her more.  I couldn’t retrieve her then, nor could I find her after hunting.  The next day, I found her, but she took off as soon as she saw me.  I spoke to the Keeper expecting to get an earful, but he couldn’t have been kinder or more helpful.  It took me a week of going back there, setting up a cage trap in the hope of catching her. I sat outside the cage trap as much as I could over the following days, but she only ever visited it and ate the food when I wasn’t there. Eventually, on the Saturday, He rang me to tell me she was in the cage trap eating the food I had left. I raced over there, only to find her sleeping against the bars of the cage – outside the trap!  I sat there for three hours watching her sunning herself, scratching, yawning and snoozing for three hours!  Eventually I thought she’s not going to go in, I’ll have to sneak up on her.  Over the next 30 minutes or so, I shuffled on my bottom towards her, stopping every time she looked up. I got to within 20 yards and she looked up and saw me.  She saw me and got up with her stern between her legs and started to slink away.  I kept still and quiet and she turned round came back towards me and sniffed the air.  The she flew at me so fast I thought she was going to attack me!  But she just jumped all over me squealing with delight. I thought I usually smell pretty bad when I’m in my work clothes, but it appears you are safe to get to within 21 yards of me!  I might try shuffling on my bottom towards some young ladies and see if this achieves the same result! During all the above turmoil I also had to deal with the case of the reluctant mobile home, kindly donated to the hunt by K, which like reluctant teenager had its arms and legs braced against the door frame and  refused to come up to the kennels.  After getting stuck within 10 yards of entering the drive and being pulled 100 yards further by M in his JCB, it broke a bearing and threw a wheel off in a fit of temper.  After M and his friend B made a new hardwood bearing, C managed to get it a further 100 yards with his tractor before the mobile home chewed up the wooden bearing and spat it out in disgust. I bought a new wheel complete with new bearing and got it up to the barn with my landrover, but it then dug its heels in and refused to go round the corner.  C kindly came back a second time and dragged this petulant teenager, kicking and screaming, into position. As I indicated in my last ENews, the bad weather has had a serious implication on our finances.  That was not meant to be interpreted as an appeal for donations, but more as keeping you, team SDB, informed of how things are going.  That it led to a couple of donations slightly embarrasses me, because as I say, that was not my aim.  But I can’t pretend that those donations weren’t welcome and came at just the right time to prevent some real difficulties.  But please DO NOT take this as an appeal for more donations.  If things continue as planned, we will finish the season in survivable shape. Finally, the meet at L last Sunday was offered and organised by O.  I wrote a thank you letter to O yesterday and described it as a “red letter day”.  I want to keep my powder dry for the report on this meet for the website, but continuing on my theme of kindness and generosity this season, on my way home from this meet, I started to develop a migraine.  I thought I had time to get home before I got to the vomiting and blacking out stage, when a front tyre blew out. I rang F to help sort out the breakdown insurance and informed S of my predicament.  H, who left the “party” back at l after me, stopped and offered me help.  It took over two hours to get the tyre fixed, giving me time to take some drugs to suppress my migraine.  But the important point about this incident was the level of support I got. In the end, I didn’t need their help, but believe me, when you’ve got a migraine, sitting in a lorry with two horses and 8 ½ couples of hounds on board, knowing that you have this sort of backup available is a great comfort. So this has been a season of excesses. Excessive bad weather and excessive kindness and generosity.  We are a small hunt and we have no “fat” to live off when times get hard. We therefore greatly appreciate the many ways people help us, no matter how big or small. Please do not misread my sentiments with regard to meets lost.  The meets lost were lost for very good reasons and I completely understand those reasons. I love Spring hunting and am just about to set off and see if I can organise a couple more meets and I hope we can finish the season in style.  Don’t forget the Spring with Buffet and Dancing to “Thomas Lord Old Gits”! This is likely to be just before I go to have a knee replaced.  What a shame, it means I can’t dance.  But I can enjoy watching all of you! This function comes at a very important time for us as it is likely we will need a new lorry for next season.  So please support it.  

 Jeremy Whaley MBH

I am blogging every day to raise money for Unicef to protect vulnerable children worldwide. If you are able to help me raise my goal of £1 day through this blog – please visit my page on the Unicef website.

Thanks for reading.

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